Thursday, January 29, 2015

'My Big Fat Fabulous Life' and Lessons in Pursuing Your (Writing) Passion

One of my recent guilty pleasures is the TLC show My Big Fat Fabulous Life. The show follows the life of Whitney Thore, a self-proclaimed 'fat ass and bad ass'. She has always been passionate about dancing but after gaining 200 pounds in just one yearpartially due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)she realized that she must now deal with a new normal. This means loving her body the way it is and not being constrained by it in spite of what social norms dictate. The show also highlights the tension between Whitney's desire to love the body she has now and her acknowledgement that she needs to strive for a healthier weight.

My Big Fat Fabulous Life
Image by: tvequals

I admit that I was drawn to this show because I have had a long and deep history of body hate and poor self-image. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with weight. Though I was never extremely obese, even as a child I was 'round', 'chubby', slightly 'fuller' compared to my peers. Nine years ago, I was also diagnosed with PCOS, though not as severe as what's talked about in the show. Fortunately, I don't have too high of a testosterone level to make me grow a beard, although in my teens up until before getting pregnant, I dealt with highly irregular menstruation, and of course, infertility. 

I was also struck by one episode where Whitney's dad talked to her about not being able to find a man to marry because of her weight. I remember having a similar talk with my father when I was in college where, during a 'moment of weakness' (let's just put it that way), he told me that unless I lose weight and become 'slim', no 'quality' man would fall in love with me and take me seriously. It left me angry, hurt and scarred for life.

I admire Whitney for being comfortable in her body and truly wish I could have the same attitude about mine. While being inspired by her story and her attitude as portrayed on the show, it dawned on me that how she lives her life can be applied to my writing as well. As a matter of fact, anyone who's pursuing a passion can apply these same lessons, regardless of what that passion is. 

1. Whitney has the courage to show who she really is, regardless of what others think of her or whether or not she measures up to others' expectations. 

She lives her life authentically by pursuing her passion for dance and she shows up with no shame. When she dances, it's not her size that strikes you, but the joy and dedication she exude. This is possibly why students continue to show up at her classes, learning from her and finding inspiration.

Having an authentic voice is something all writers should continuously apply and strive for. It's not always easy. Ideas don't always magically show up but I know that discipline is an integral part of the equation if we want to keep doing what we love and do it with love. You may not be as good or as well-known as other writers out there, but finding your own voice and writing about things you truly believe make you relevant. Keep showing up as YOU with all that you have now instead of being defeated by a sense of lack.

2. Her focus is not on being liked but rather on living her life to the fullest, refusing to be constrained by possible criticism or unpopularity.

Whitney knows that when she goes out, there's always a risk that someone will call her names, stare at her with disdain, and spew poisonous words all because of how she looks. She doesn't let this keep her from going out and doing what she wants to do, whether it be dancing, modelling, or wearing a two-piece bathing suit in public.  

As a writer, there's always the temptation to focus on getting more readers or followers on social media, and you may end up retreating from certain topics that you feel may not make you as likable, or as popular. Sometimes we also don't dare to go beyond our comfort zone for fear of being criticized or attacked for expressing our genuine views. But allowing ourselves to be held hostage by such fears only stunt our growth and certainly diminish our authenticity. Let's take in Deepak Chopra's wise words: 
" all my research, the greatest leaders looked inward and were able to tell a good story with authenticity and passion."

3. Yes, she gets affected, and sometimes hurt by strangers unfairly judging her based solely on her weight; people making assumptions about the kind of person she is when they know nothing about her health issues and lifestyle. But I haven't seen her stoop to their level and instead does her best to stay calm and take the high road.

As a writer/blogger, it's not uncommon to encounter haters online. Instead of being able to constructively criticize and diplomatically disagree, some people would rather leave nasty comments that aim to attack not only your ideas but your personhood. In such situations, it's wiser to brush it off and walk away. You can't make everyone happy anyway, neither is it your job to do so as a writer. 

4.  On a recent episode, Whitney was trying to work out with a trainer and was challenged to do the burpee. She started out thinking she couldn't do it but eventually decided to take little steps until she could accomplish the task. Instead of focusing on executing the routine perfectly (which in effect would have kept her from even trying), she poured her energy on simply trying, taking it one step at a time.

Each writing piece, or any end result you are trying to produce, doesn't have to be brilliant and perfect all the time. What's important is that you show up, take the first step and keep at it. Don't get overwhelmed by the idea of a grand and perfect end result. Break it down into manageable steps and give yourself credit for all the accomplishments, no matter how small. That's the only way to build confidence which will motivate you to keep going.

5. Her goals are clear to her—to keep dancing, which is her passion, and at the same time reach a healthier weightand she surrounds herself with people who love and support her, and most of all, push her when she gets derailed or discouraged.

The truth is, it's challenging to keep pursuing something we love and sustains us when we don't have a support system. No matter who you are or what aspirations you have, it's essential that you have someone who anchors you, someone who genuinely loves you and will have the courage to tell you honestly when you are failing and also have the capacity to celebrate your successes with you.

So what does having a positive body image have in common with pursuing your passion, and in this case, blogging/writing? It's confidence! I understand it's easier said than done but it's a mental practice and takes consistency. Just don't give up!

Have you seen the show? What lessons have inspired you?


  1. Absolutely inspiring! These suggestions are such an essay on LIFE. Thank you!

  2. Great piece Joy! Diane is right it is very inspiring and could be put towards everything in your life. My daughter also has PCOS and this is why she had such a hard time getting pregnant.

  3. I'm glad to see something positive coming out of reality TV. So much of it is so horrible or degrading. And these are good lessons. Note to self - my voice is my voice, I am not validated by book sales or audiences.

  4. Your post is right on target Joy! The happiest people are the ones who follow their own path. Great words and comparison!

  5. I love this post Joy. Having confidence in ourselves is so important, but so hard to achieve. I haven't watched this show, but I will give it a try, because I love the message.

  6. I love this post too! I've found the commercials for this series really impressive and now I think I may need to DVR it (that says a lot, I watch TV about once a week). Very inspiring.

  7. I have never seen the show, but I loved your lessons from it!


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